Two sides to every story…

First and foremost, I have safely arrived in South Africa 🙂 After a long long long two days of travel, we have arrived to a conference center in a nature preserve in the Mpumalanga region of South Africa, where we will remain for the next few days before getting our placements for our homestay during Pre-Service Training. I could not be happier about the group that we have here! Everyone has been wonderful, and it is really a beautiful thing to see that a group with such diverse backgrounds and experiences has come together for a united purpose with such drive and passion. During PST (Pre-Service Training) they emphasize how this group of volunteers is to be your family for the next 27 months, and I am beyond thankful to have such a great group for family in the next years. Africa is wonderful, group is wonderful and Peace Corps is wonderful!!!

On our first day of official training, we woke up to a great morning. The rains brought in some cooler weather and which makes training sessions much more enjoyable. I woke up with the sun and took a walk around the nature preserve with my roommate, watching monkeys play and taking in the beautiful scenery. We learned greetings in IsiZulu. One of my favorite parts about the greeting that you use is before you ask how anyone is doing, you acknowledge that you “see the other person” and you speak in plural to reference not only the individual you are speaking to in the moment, but also their family back in the village. Also, our language and cultural facilitators the Peace Corps hire are great, and not only welcomed us with some beautiful songs in their local languages, but also use song to teach us. My first day of language training and nothing came from a book…I have to admit it threw me at first but actually seemed like a great way in retrospect. A lot of the training we did in staging involved perspective, as we are to integrate into a new and complex culture. This language learning experience was one of the many examples I am sure to encounter where something is done different than I would anticipate, but in the end turns out to be a wonderful way to get something done. After training I was able to get my first workout in on my new continent, followed by a hike with some of the trainees before dinner and late night session. I am hoping to hotspot this blog post up later tonight with my last little bit of data I purchased before my phone goes dead, and if not then I will update you all in two weeks when I reach my homestay and can have weekends free to seek out an internet cafe! It really has been a magical two days in South Africa, and I am jazzed to see what tomorrow has in store! But until then….

…the other side of this coin.

I have killed two spiders in my new dwelling, and have only been in country 8 hours…Aside from the two I killed, I also learned that a Croc Dress flat does not have the strength needed to kill a medium size spider. This was confirmed after two direct hits of croc vs spider on wall, and the spider essentially laughed at me and crawled behind my pillow. Still haven’t located this spider and it has moved up high on my most wanted list. Through the day, I notice a rather large spider behind a light on the wall, with only its front two legs and head sticking out, but confirmed  its gross size and identity (spider) by standing up on a chair to see. I have three other girls in my room, all of which voted against killing sed spider because he seems to just be hanging around there, so it doesn’t bother them. Begrudgingly, lamp spider has earned a stay of execution from our hut tonight. And while this thought continued to twist around in my mind, they all made fun of me for it “not being a big deal.”

So we round out towards the end of the day, return from dinner to see lamp sider, front two legs and all, still firm on his perch on our wall. But they were right in that he did not move, so we began getting ready for bed, the “your afraid of spider laughs” finally dying down. Moments later, roomie 1 leaves the bathroom, yells, and all four of us gather on the far side of the hut staring into the sporadic, fear based movements of another huge spider!! (lamp size and look) The spider darts under a chair, so two roomies move it while one wacks away, with no luck. He then dives toward the couch, then table with the same strategy movements from the part of my roommates, with no victory. Finally, we corner him around the bag he has hidden under, and Roomie 2 goes in for the kill! The spider is dead, and I have never felt so much satisfaction than watching three supposedly not-bothered-by-spider roomies, jumping on furniture and screaming just like me 🙂

Update** I had another round in the ring with pillow spider, and this time solicited the help of one of my roommates. (An action I regretted since she missed the thing TWICE before he crawled back under my bed) I slept in that bed 20 minutes later, which I will have to claim as my first big adaptation win to Africa, because there would be no chance I would fall asleep in the USA with a living spider anywhere in my room. This morning, my roommate and I woke up with multiple bumps we are pretty sure are spider bites, which we have now credited to the newly dubbed “Angry pillow Spider.” I am about to close out and attempt to sleep in my very warm hut again, so everyone wish us luck!

It may be a few weeks before I get a chance to update you all again, so until then thank you so much for the love and support.

Packing is a Family Affair

I have officially made it to hump-day of my departure week, and emotions are in full swing! I have had three excruciatingly toimg_7017ugh good-byes, between my brother, best friend, and brother in law coupled with many other close family and friends. If you can loose weight from water released via tears, I may actually be to my target weight by departure after all.

What time I have that is not being spent seeking out last minute purchases I still need or trying desperately to find movies and music I can put on my external hard drive without breaking the bank, is spent in an activity that I have consistently procrastinated in my past…packing. And while my track record of “morning of throwing the things I think I need in a bag” is actually near perfect, for this 27 month adventure, I am bringing in the big guns. aka, mom and dad.

My dad exemplifies the perfect puzzle packer, with outstanding rolling and folding capabilities and the tetris mind to make it all fit. My mother is the queen of organization and planning, with attention to detail and list making skills to rival no other. So, Mom and Dad plus one hiking backpack, one roller bag and a personal item and you have all the needed elements to actually do this thing! The added trick to the game, is that one bag, you actually leave in storage during the first three months of training. So not only are you trying to work weight vs volume to fill your limited bags, but you also have to try and place items/clothing that will be needed vs items you can do without until you reach your permanent residence. And so the game continues, and I count myself lucky to have them on my team.

This process has been so unique thus far. It is a strange thing to make plans to be apart from the people you love for so long. It is strange to depart someone who has always been a quick FaceTime away, or quick drive down the road, and to not know when, how often, or how you will be able to communicate. It is strange to buy taco seasoning for the inevitable nights abroad when you are missing home and mixing that into your typical meal will help get you through the tough night.

But in a sea of strange, new beginnings and firsts, I can finally feel a flame that has dwindled in me find new light and energy. I can feel my spirit of adventure intensify as I day dream about the new experience before me. My pulse quickens when I imagine the projects I would like to put in place and the service I will be able to provide for those in need. My heart is full knowing the love and support from the US that I will carry over with me and that I hope to share with those I meet in my new world.

Until then, its hugs, packing, and anticipation. I can’t believe its 4 days away…